- - - - - - - - - - Summer 2018 - - - - - - - - - -
Q&A: Rayna Parks
It’s a story you don’t hear often…
a 20-year-old college student spends her spring break learning how to make her first painted quilt. What’s even better? Said
20-year-old had already created a number of traditional-style quilts dating back to age 17.
And best of all? This talented 20-year-old named Rayna Parks recently made news (online and in the social media sphere) for not only creating a painted quilt inspired by the singer Lorde, but also gifting it to her during a concert, where the songstress displayed it to the crowd and danced with it on stage.
For this edition of Friends@Festival, we spoke with her about how she got started in quilting, how her love of the art form has grown, and what projects (many musician-inspired) she has planned for the future.
Friends@Festival: How and when did you begin quilting?
Parks: I began quilting three years ago, when I was 17. I had just graduated high school, and I had hundreds of T-shirts that I couldn’t take to college, but I didn’t want to throw away. I’d seen T-shirt quilts on Pinterest and it didn’t look too difficult, so I decided to try it. I asked my grandma to borrow her sewing machine and, in true grandma fashion, she showed up the next day with a brand-new sewing machine she’d bought me. I whipped together a massive T-shirt quilt following a Pinterest tutorial, decided I really liked sewing, and started quilting traditional quilts for my family as gifts.
Friends@Festival: What is it about quilting that keeps you interested?
Parks: I love the endlessness of it. I can create whatever I want, and never run out of variations. I started with T-shirt quilts, went on to regularly pieced quilts, and now I am painting quilts. There’s always more to do. I also love the challenge of not having a pattern and just having to make my own way.
Friends@Festival: What has been your favorite quilt to make so far?
Parks: My favorite quilt is the one I call my “Passport Quilt.” It is just a bunch of colors in lines coming together. I studied abroad for four months in Italy, and every time I visited a new place, I bought a yard of fabric. I have fabric from Cinque Terre, Rome, Venice, Positano, Paris, Nice, London, the French Alps, Santorini, and Athens.
Then, when I got home, I tried to find a pattern that would equally distribute the colors in a crazy fun way. I couldn’t find a pattern that I really liked, so I came up with one on my own. This was by far the most frustrating quilt I have ever made! I cut each of the fabrics in 3” x WOF (width of fabric) strips and laid them out on the ground in the pattern I wanted. Trying to get it to come together was equally infuriating, but I am in love with the way it turned out. The business and beauty of it is exactly how my time abroad was.
Friends@Festival: Walk us through the creation of your first
Parks: I’d seen painted wallhangings online and I always thought they were interesting. I had an idea one day, while I was listening to music, that I wanted to create a painted quilt top. I put it in my notes, and that note has actually been in my phone for almost a year. Then, one day I was listening to Melodrama by Lorde, looking at the album art, and I thought, “This would be perfect.”
I looked online for days trying to figure out what fabric paints to use, whether to use inks or paints, how much to buy, how to paint, etc. However, while there were a few tutorials about wallhangings, I couldn’t find any on the scale of what I wanted to do. So, I had to figure it out for myself.
I really decided to just go for it on my spring break when I was sitting at home with absolutely nothing to do. First, I sewed two 100% cotton pieces of white fabric and cut them to make a 54” square. I used a projector to project the album art onto the fabric. I traced the main outlines of the project, just so I would be able to get the depth perception and dimensions right.
Then, I created my own fabric medium, because I am not close to a craft store and buying as much as I would need would be incredibly expensive. I combined five parts water to one part vegetable glycerin and added acrylic paint until it was the consistency I wanted.
I then put the fabric on the floor on top of an old blanket, and went for it. I looked at the album cover art as a guide throughout the painting. I have never painted before in my life, so this was a huge endeavor. When I finished painting and it dried, I heat set the fabric, basted it to the batting and back, and quilted it!
I free-motion quilted it, but I have never quite gotten the hang of free-motion quilting, so I kept the feed dogs up and just turned the fabric when I needed to. I binded it, bought my front row tickets to see Lorde, and the rest is history.
Friends@Festival: How did it feel seeing Lorde dance on stage with your quilt?
Parks: It was the craziest feeling. I had put so much effort into making the quilt and I told myself that I probably wasn’t going to be able to give it to her, just so I didn’t get my hopes up. But then she got it, hugged me, and thanked me for it. I was already overwhelmed, but when she took it up on stage and danced with it, it was insane. When she opened it up, everyone screamed, and it was nice to know my work was being shown like that.
Friends@Festival: After that experience, you decided to create another painted quilt…this time for Harry Styles [formerly of the band One Direction; now a solo artist]. How does it feel to know that Harry Styles got your quilt, loves it, and “will cherish it?”
Parks: That experience was particularly wild. I had just gotten scammed out of my pit tickets, so we had to buy new tickets and we were late getting into the concert. After his head of security told me Harry got it,
I was already ecstatic. I just kept saying “Really? Really?” and he just kept reassuring me he had it and loved it. I have been a fan of One Direction and Harry Styles for seven years, so to know that he had something that
I made was surreal. Knowing I had even a small connection to him
Friends@Festival: The responses to your quilts have been overwhelmingly positive. Have you met any more quilters your age through this experience?
Parks: The responses have been incredible! I have gotten so many messages from people asking me how I do it, because they want to try
it, and it makes my heart so warm to see other people my age try the
I have actually met one other girl who quilts. It was a funny story,
because we go to the same college and have been to several of the same concerts. She made musician Lana Del Rey a square patch quilt with messages from fans on it.
1. Passport Quilt” (54” x 64”)
2. Passport Quilt detail 1
3. Passport Quilt fabrics
4. “Melodrama Quilt” (54” x 54”)
5. Melodrama Quilt detail
6. Lorde wearing Melodrama Quilt
7. Painting Self-Titled Quilt
8. "Self-Titled Quilt” (60” x 60”)
Friends@Festival: What do your friends and family think of your talent?
Parks: My friends kind of think it’s funny, but amazing. They love seeing my work, although I’m sure they are tired of hearing me talk about it by now. Same with my family—they are incredibly supportive. They are constantly giving me new ideas and feedback and praise on the things I create. My favorite thing to do when I finish a quilt is send it to my family in a group chat.
Friends@Festival: What’s your next project?
Parks: I have a few orders to complete for people! I am making a Harry Potter quilt, some HST (half-square triangle) projects, and others. My next painted quilt is going to be a Taylor Swift reputation quilt. I am going to her concert in August, so I am hoping for a round three of being able to give my quilt to the artist it inspired.
Friends@Festival: What advice do you have to encourage young people to start quilting?
Parks: Just go for it! It can be incredibly intimidating to try, but it’s really not as hard as you think! You just have to get past that mental block. Pinterest is definitely your friend, and there are tons of amazing tutorials out there to get you started. Have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment.
To hear more about her Melodrama quilt, click here.
To hear more about her Harry Styles quilt, click here.